Somaliland stability 'at risk'

Row over vote threatening to plunge breakaway Horn of Africa state into chaos.

    Tensions over the Somaliland presidential election has given rise to fears that the
    self-declared republic could become a failed state like its neighbour Somalia

    Somaliland has been hailed as a beacon of stability in the troubled Horn of Africa region since declaring independence from Somalia in 1991.

    But Al Jazeera's Mohamed Adow, reports that some experts now believe the self-declared republic is at crisis point, as an election row deepens.

    The current tension in Somaliland centres on the presidential election, which was due to have been held on September 27.

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    The polls have been postponed indefinitely due to serious differences between the political parties since 2008.

    This uncertainty has led to increased concern about Somaliland in the international community, and a flare-up of political animosity within the territory.

    Recent violence, particularly in the capital Hargeysa, has shown that the crisis in Somaliland has changed from being political to one of security and stability.

    Fears over the crisis have even led one senior political figure to warn that it could become another failed state, like neighbouring Somalia.

    Somaliland is a former British protectorate in north western Somalia.

    In 1960, it gained its independence and united with what was then Italian Somaliland to form the Somalia republic.

    Limited democracy

    In 1991, it declared independence after Mohamed Siad Barre, the Somali military leader, was overthrown.

    Despite the unrest in September, Somaliland has a relatively stable democracy
    Somaliland has a population of 3.5 million people, according to government estimates, and is a relatively stable democracy even though it has not been internationally recognised.

    This is partly because it has developed a unique hybrid system of government.

    The row over elections - largely seen as a test for this fledgling nation - threatens to divide it.

    Afyare Elmi, a Somali political analyst, told Al Jazeera: "The concerns are real. The opposition fears the government is not interested in holding this election and there is a lot at stake. Unless these elections take place, they might have some problems.

    "However, if history tells us anything, the Somaliland leadership has shown that at least they could address with traditional leadership the issues when they arise."

    The hope now rests with a recently appointed electoral commission, entrusted with the task of organising elections, a step seen as vital to Somaliland's quest for international recognition.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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